Incumbents sweep in Lee
“Change” may have been one of the main themes of the presidential campaigns, but the majority of Lee County voters cast their ballots for incumbents.
Despite losing the general election, John McCain won Lee County voters 55 percent to 44 percent for Barack Obama. Connie Mack will return to Congress to represent Florida’s 14th District, thanks largely to the 60 percent support he received from Lee County.
Lee County voters followed statewide and national trends as 267,882 ballots were cast countywide, a turnout rate of 84 percent. That stands in stark contrast to the 20 percent turnout in Lee for the primary elections.
In local races, incumbents swept in County Commission contests, the Sheriff’s race, Property Appraiser’s race, Lee Memorial Health Board of Directors, and Mosquito Control District races.
Long lines and voting machine malfunctions were reported in a few precincts throughout Lee County, but overall the election process went smoothly.
“(The voting process) was about about half an hour beginning to end. I was expecting a one- to two-hour wait,” said Jennifer Hamel, who voted at the Gulf Coast Village precinct.
Some preferred the old touch-screen method of voting to the new optical scanning machines. The new machines were brought in because they provide a paper trail, something touch-screens don’t produce.
“I prefer the old method, it was so much quicker. This new way made me feel like I was in high school taking a standardized test,” Dawn Helton said after voting at the Cape Coral Library.
While some people did follow the local election contests, it was the presidential race that brought the majority of people to the polls.
“(Obama) is willing to help the middle class, so we’re hoping he’s going to help the poor, too,” said Teresa Coker, who voted for Obama on an absentee ballot.
“I’m pretty conservative. I tend to vote conservative down the line,” Viviana Vena said after voting for McCain at the Gulf Coast Village precinct.
Heidi Samek said she only voted in the presidential race and left the local races blank.
“I didn’t get the information I needed to make a decision locally,” Samek said.
Others were more concerned about how the election will turn the economy around in the Cape.
“You can see what is going on. People are losing their homes. There are problems here in Cape Coral,” said Isabel George after voting at the Abiding Love Lutheran Church precinct.
Lee County Commission
Bob Janes held off competition from Carla Johnston and former Cape Coral city councilmember A. J. Boyd to retain his District 1 seat. With all precincts reporting but one, Janes won 60 percent of the vote with 132,513 votes, with Boyd and Johnston garnering about 20 percent each. Boyd received 43,715 votes, Johnston, 43,325.
Ray Judah also hung on to his District 3 seat after securing a 68 percent to 32 percent victory over Les Cochran. Judah earned 153,027 votes, Cochran 71,621.
Frank Mann will also stay on the Commission in his District 5 seat after defeating challengers Dick Kuhn and Sonny Haas. Mann won with 69 percent of the vote, while Haas and Kuhn took 22 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Mann earned 149,850 votes; Haas, 47,997; Kuhn, 20,000.
Lee County Sheriff
Sheriff Mike Scott of North Fort Myers, held on to his post, winning 184,029 votes, or 75 percent, to challenger Christian Meister’s (no party affiliation) 61,946 votes, or 25 percent. Scott is a Republican.
Lee County Property Appraiser
Republican incumbent Ken Wilkinson won easily over Democratic challenger John Glaser, with 142,924 votes, or 60 percent, to Glaser’s 75,567 votes, or 32 percent. Larry St. Amand (no party affiliation) garnered 18,279 votes, or 8 percent.
Lee Memorial Health System Board
Incumbent Marilyn Stout of Cape Coral and Stephen Brown of Sanibel will take seats on the Health Board, narrowly defeating Anna Clark of Cape Coral in District 1. Stout took 91,165 votes and Brown took 85,539 votes, while Clark fell short with only 83,263 votes in a race where the top two vote-getters won spots on the Board.
District 3 incumbents Lois Barrett and Linda Brown retained their seats, edging out challenger Jason Moon. Brown had 113,448 votes and Barrett had 74,681 votes, while Moon held 65,702 votes.
District 5 incumbents Kerry Babb and James Green held on to their seats, fending off challengers Robert Freiburger and Vilmar Ribeiro. Green was the largest vote-getter with 89,710, with Babb following with 79,451 votes. Freiburger and Ribeiro garnered 51,353 and 19,337 votes, respectively.
Lee County Mosquito Control District
Incumbents Lawrence Murphy and Mike Ellis also held on to their Mosquito Control District posts. Murphy won 115,322 votes, defeating challenger James Opp, who received 46,578 votes, in the Area 1 contest. Ellis won 98,730 votes, holding off opposition from challenger Tim Gardner, who garnered 63,912 votes.